Build your climb-up from the ground up

Table of Contents

If your climb-up still has lots of room for improvement, gradually work your way through all 7 of these climb-up progressions, paying close attention to developing ambidextrous footwork, smooth rhythm, & precise landings.

Feeling stuck? In between each progression are more sub-progressions. For example, make kong-ups incrementally harder by increasing the wall height. Or make walking/running climb-ups harder by taking away from the number of approach steps.

Even if you have an advanced level climb-up, you should still occasionally use these progressions to help keep your climb-ups sharp. For example, drilling running climb-ups with an emphasis on quick, clean footwork will make your cat hang climb-ups faster too. Or if you need more climb-up ambidexterity, go a few progressions back to help fill in your skill gaps.

For an alternative approach to learning or teaching the climb-up, check out this free blog post: Intro to climb-up strength & skill training

→ To unlock our most comprehensive parkour strength & conditioning resource, consider purchasing our digital training manual: Parkour Strength Online

Ground kong (split-foot)

Another quadrupedal movement (QM) variation, the ground kong has the same application and benefits as most QM. In addition, it’s similar to one of the most common basic movements in parkour, the kong vault (aka cat pass & saut de chat). The ground kong is a fundamental step to build up to a kong vault and a great exercise to further develop vaults and other basic gymnastics skills.

Ground kongs are useful for building basic strength/power, as well as full-body coordination. Think of it like a more complex burpee that eventually progresses to a kong-up, and finally a kong vault. A kong-up brings you to a squatting/standing position on top of an obstacle—useful as you transition into a jump or run. Be sure to drill ground kongs and other kong variations with a split-foot stance/takeoff as it will carry over better to kong vaults, climb-ups, etc. (versus a feet-together/punching takeoff).

Kong-up (split-foot, knee-high)

Kong-ups are useful for building basic strength/power, as well as full-body coordination. Think of it like a more complex box jump, or a 3-dimensional burpee. A kong-up will bring you to a squatting/standing position on top of an obstacle—useful as you transition into a jump or run. Be sure to drill this one with a split-foot stance/takeoff as it will carry over better to kong vaults, climb-ups, etc. (versus a feet-together punching takeoff).

Top-out (level 3)

As the final part of the climb-up, top-outs are a key skill for all levels to continue practicing in some way. Top-outs are explosive full-body movements that require a quick heel drive, a tight tuck, and a powerful pop through the arms, shoulders, & back. At first, you may need to land 1 or 2 legs slightly to the side but eventually, work up to landing on the wall w/ both feet (symmetrically & precisely)

Walking climb-up + climb-down (shoulder-high)

The walking climb-up (WCU) is primarily for building better climb-up (CU) footwork skill & speed. The main goal is to get things down here with slow/low-impact before moving onto the running climb-up (RCU).

For beginners, WCUs build general CU strength, skill, & work capacity. Beginners should do them in almost every CU training session! For advanced athletes, WCUs & RCUs are more like an end of warm-up and/or light(ish) speed drill to refine & maintain minor technical details of the CU.

Running climb-up + climb-down (3-step run-up, head-high)

The running climb-up (RCU) is primarily for building better climb-up (CU) footwork skill & speed. It also happens to be 1 of the best CU drills out there, for all levels. This is because the running start offloads some of the work from upper to lower body. It allows you to train more reps, build more skill, and with less wear and tear on your wrists, elbows, & shoulders.

For beginners, RCUs build general CU strength, skill, & work capacity. Beginners should do them in almost every CU training session! For advanced athletes, RCUs are more like an end of warm-up and/or light(ish) speed drill to refine & maintain minor technical details of the CU.

Jumping climb-up + climb-down (head-high)

The jumping climb-up (JCU) is used as an in between progression for when your RCUs are good but your cat hang climb-ups still need work. JCUs take away the running momentum but still allow a minor assist in the form of your bottom/grounded leg helping to hop you up into the skill. It allows you to train more reps, build more skill, and with less wear and tear on your wrists, elbows, & shoulders.

For beginners, JCUs build general CU strength, skill, & work capacity. However, if you’re struggling with JCUs, go back to WCUs & RCUs instead. For advanced athletes, JCUs are more like an end of warm-up and/or light(ish) speed drill to refine & maintain minor technical details of the CU.

Climb-up + climb-down (level 3)

As 1 of parkour’s most unique & utilitarian movements, the climb-up is a must-have skill for anyone interested in functional, obstacle-based training. Extremely relevant to real-world situations, it is a wicked demonstration of both power and agility. Need to quickly ascend a tall wall or fence? You could awkwardly struggle your way up, or you could whip out a perfectly executed climb-up. If time was of the essence and somebody’s survival was at stake, climb-up strength & skill is critical.

With proper training and attention to detail, the climb-up is your key to the urban jungle. Owning this technique is the difference between people who need to be saved by Spiderman and people who are capable of saving themselves (and others). Which would you prefer?

Want to learn more about strength & conditioning techniques to help boost your climb-up? Check out Parkour Strength Online, the 80/20 of what you should know about parkour strength & conditioning, in a new & improved digital format. Building upon our 15+ years of research & development across multiple parkour schools IRL & remote, this course will help you accelerate athletic development, mitigate injuries, & expand coaching skills.

Ryan Ford is founder of Apex School of Movement, director of Parkour Strength Online course, & author of Parkour Strength Training book.

>